For the Wild, an ugly start to a stretch of 13 of 18 on home ice (five of six before the All-Star break).
This Wild stretch of mostly winning hockey began Nov. 19 after the Wild blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center. That happened again tonight against the New Jersey Devils, only this time, the Wild actually regained a one-goal lead 9:08 into the third on Erik Haula’s first goal in eight games.
But in only 22 seconds, that lead was gone as Kyle Palmieri jammed home the equalizer.
From there, the Wild was playing mindless hockey, and Bruce Boudreau basically said as much. He used the words “dumb” or “stupid” a handful of times in his presser.
After I got my eyeglasses back – yes, they flew over the press box into a guy’s bag of peanuts in the club level (not kidding) during the second intermission (thanks Carly Peters, who went to retrieve them during the third period), I couldn’t believe the reckless hockey I was seeing.
“It was stupid,” Boudreau said.
Defensemen, including twice Matt Dumba with the game tied, pinching in trying to save 50-50 pucks with nobody behind him like he did often in Chicago. Constantly losing its third forward high, as the Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Jason Pominville line did before the winning goal. So disenchanted with those three, they didn't see the ice with the Wild searching for a goal in the last two minutes.
One reason why it was unwise is because the Wild was forced to play the final 35 minutes and maybe beyond if this thing got to overtime without defenseman Jonas Brodin, who broke a finger.
Boudreau didn’t know yet the extent of the injury after the game.
“I don’t know to what extent it is broken, what hand it is, whether it’s the tip, whether it’s the base, any of that stuff,” Boudreau said. “I don’t have a clue yet. We’ll probably find that out more tomorrow.”
Broken fingers can be wide-ranging timelines, a lot determined on where the break is, what type of break and whether surgery is needed. If Brodin is lost long-term, it will be a bigtime problem. Not only has that been proven in the past any time he has been in the lineup, just look at the mess it created tonight.
To get by, either right-shot Nate Prosser will have to play the left side or more likely Mike Reilly or Gustav Olofsson, both left-shot D, will be recalled. The Wild was due, quite frankly. It hasn’t had a player miss a game to injury since before Christmas.
But back to the game, without Brodin, the Wild’s D and its forwards needed to look at the big picture, play the situation (a tight game against a good forechecking opponent) and play it smart if not safe in the third.
“We pinch with a 3-2 lead with no one behind us. I mean, it’s stuff we don’t do, haven’t done all year,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know what our thought process is there. Their winning goal, we have three guys caught. A 4-on-2, they come down, and then it’s a 1-on-5 in the zone and nobody’s doing anything. It was just dumb hockey.”
That 4-on-2 was the Parise-Staal-Pominville line (Pominville was moved to the line in the second period, flipping with Charlie Coyle, who moved to the right side of Nino Niederreiter and Haula; Coyle had an assist on Haula’s goal).
Parise, Staal and Pominville were each minus-3.
“They weren't very good,” Boudreau said of the line. “They were fighting the puck all night. The part that gets you mad is when you're fighting the puck, and we've all had those kind of nights, then you sit there and you have to go, 'OK. I have to be smart defensively. I'm out here. I might not get any goals or whatever.’ You have to play good defensively when things aren't going right and you need to be able to identify those situations. I don't think we did a very good job of that.”
Off night for Devan Dubnyk. Second and third goals he’d probably want back, although Adam Henrique’s goal to make it 2-2 was a great shot. The fourth goal, I’ll give him a break on since it came after a 4-on-2 (although he came close to smothering a puck right before the goal and couldn’t) and Blake Coleman made a great play to spin away from Christian Folin and Parise, Pominville and Ryan Suter were all standing in front of him defending nobody.
But, Dubnyk has been the model of consistency, going 16-2-2 in his past 20 starts.
The Wild, for that matter, fell to 17-2-1 in its past 20, so we’ll see if it can get back on the horse as Boudreau likes to say Thursday against Arizona.
The Wild has lost consecutive games in regulations once this season (Nov 1 and 5).
The Blackhawks rallied to beat Colorado tonight, so the Wild and Blackhawks are tied with 61 points. But the Wild has played four fewer games, so it retains the top spot in the conference and division for now.
Jason Zucker, who scored a breakaway goal to give Minnesota 2-0 lead: “We weren’t strong enough defensively, we gave them too many chances and they capitalized on them, especially in the third period. … I think we gave them a few odd-man rushes that were our fault for giving them, we could have been in better position. We had a few turnovers, I know I had a few that I should have gotten deep and didn’t. There were just too many plays like that.”
Dubnyk: “It’s frustrating because we threw it away. We haven’t done that. We talked about this is an important game for us. Tie game with two minutes left, that’s where we’re usually solid.”
On the “dumb” plays Boudreau lamented: “I think we’ve been pretty good all year, really good all year, in these situations. I always say it’s a long season. Every game’s not going to be perfect. For 95 percent of the time, we’re real good in that situation. So, we’re fine. We know how to play in these situations. It just doesn’t make it any less frustrating to give away a couple of points.”
Haula: “We have to come [Wednesday] and see what we did wrong. It was pretty clear. I think we were playing with fire a little bit. We got away a little bit from our D zone and certain stuff like that. We have had some success. I guess when we keep flirting with it, it was going to bite us at some point.”
Boudreau on how it unraveled: “They kept pushing, and I’m sure they believed they were going to tie it up the way came out in the third period. We just did some uncharacteristically dumb things on all their goals. You can call it what you want, but they earned it, and we didn’t.”
Spurgeon: “We’re going to have to get back at it [Wednesday]. Practice hard, look at some game tape and get right back at it. We can’t be losing points right now, and we know that.”
That’s it for now. Russo-Souhan Show will be at Hell’s Kitchen on Wednesday at 6 p.m.